This article is adapted from the Mihaaru report which appeared here.
The international airport in Maafaru was financed entirely by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD),and was called a “gift” from the United Arab Emirates by then-president Mr Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. Atest flight landed on the 2.2 kilometre-long, 40 metre-wide runway in August, a month before Mr Yameen Abdul Gayyoom was ousted by the Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. More recently, however, several issues haverisen to the surface regarding the airport in Maafaru which indicate deception and fraud.
On 24 December 2017 the Government handed the project over to Tuff Offshore Engineering Service Private Limited, a Singaporean company. The newspaper Mihaaru reported that the company do not have any past experience in airport construction, and neither have they ever worked in the Maldives before.
Accusations that Tuff wasnot paying their sub-contractors have recently come to light.
Mihaaru reported that Tuff received about USD$40million from the government but hadfailed to pay sub-contractors after completion of work.
The UAE had provided the Government with a fund of USD$52 million for building the airport with a VIP terminal and a city hotel.The VIP terminal and the city hotel had later been removed from the project because of Tuff’s spending. Tuff had later claimed that the cost of building only the airport would cost nearly USD$48 million.
The only work that had been finished by Tuff to date has been the2.2 kilometre-longrunway.
The project had been due on August 2018, but it had been postponed to February 2019. However, it is unclear whether they would be able to finish work before that time.
The ADFD had come to an agreement with Tuff that the ADFD would pay Tuff only USD$52 million, but Tuff had later demanded a further USD$18million. The VIP terminal and the city hotel were removed from the project as a result.
The project to construct the airport in Maafaru had originally been given to Millennium Capital. The Government voided the agreement with Millennium Capital after they had a breach of contract. The building project had been re-opened and then given to Sun Siyam Resorts, from whom the project was later taken by the Government as they had failed to deliver.
The Ministry of Tourism put the project up for a bid, which Tuff won.
Mihaaru reports that Tuff had won the bid through deception. In their submitted bid proposal, Tuff had claimed that they had successfully completed six projects. It was later made clear that the airport projects mentioned in the bid had not been related to Tuff, and that some of the projects they had mentioned had been fabricated.
The Government had fallen victim to fraud.
Some of the projects mentioned in the Tuff bid proposal had been a project called “FPOSO”, worth USD$32 million; an airport building project in Kuhinigar, worth USD$54 million, among others.
The agreement between Tuff and the Government had required that Tuff inform the Government before hiring sub-contractors. Tuff had failed to do so.
An employee of the GKD Company, one of the subcontractors hired by Tuff,claimed that GKD had build the runway. The employee claimed that they had used 100 employees for the project, but they were currently facing difficulties paying their salaries. Tuff owe the GKD Company a sum of USD$1.4million, but they have not yet been paid. The employee mentioned that the ADFD had paid the money to Tuff, but Tuff had not admitted to having received the money.
A high-ranking employee in the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL)said that with airport’s runway, including all the necessary facilities, would cost between USD$30-35million. The city hotel would bring up the cost to USD$48 million.
Tuff had demanded more money than necessary under the pretext of building the airport. They demanded USD$7million to build the runway, lights,and safety system. USD$500,000 for the building of a VIP terminal and passenger jetty. They also demanded USD$3 million to build an airport hotel.